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Greece promises better living conditions for refugees but human rights defenders are worried about the confinement of asylum seekers in this new camp inaugurated on Saturday on the island of Samos.

Barbed wire and surveillance cameras, on the island of Samos, facing Turkey, the Greek government inaugurates, on Saturday September 18, the first so-called “closed and controlled access” migrant camp, an expression that worries human rights defenders .

X-ray scanners and magnetic doors at the entrance, integrated detention center, this new camp will only be accessible by asylum seekers with badges equipped with electronic chips. At night, back and forth will be completely prohibited.

The European Commission has pledged € 276 million to finance five new camps on the Aegean islands, which receive most of the migrants arriving from neighboring Turkish coasts.

“The model of controlled structures will be gradually adopted in all the islands and in mainland Greece,” Greek Minister of Migration Notis Mitarachi explained this summer.

A camp of this type should be completed next month in Leros. In Lesvos, where the Moria camp was reduced to ashes last year, work has not yet started.

Better living conditions according to the authorities

The Greek government assures that these centers will meet European standards, with better quality accommodation, running water, toilets, separate areas for families, and more security.

Greece has often been criticized for the deplorable living conditions in its camps in the Aegean Islands.

In Samos, the slum of Vathy, which must be completely emptied by the end of September, had housed nearly 7,000 asylum seekers between 2015 and 2016, for an initial capacity of 680 people.

The invasion of rats, the improvised wooden barracks without heating, the lack of toilets and showers continue to punctuate the daily lives of some 600 current residents.

These must be transferred gradually from Monday until the end of the month, in the new structure some 5 km away.

The army will then dismantle the Vathy camp, remove the containers and decontaminate the area, which will then be returned to the municipality.

“This is a promise made to the local community,” noted Notis Mitarachi, who intends to respond to the anger of the islanders who, for years, have watched the camp spread to the gates of Vathy, the main town. from the island.

But locals also don’t want the new camp, albeit more isolated, and demand that the migrants all be transferred to the mainland.

Concerns of NGOs

Human rights defenders are concerned about the confinement of asylum seekers in the new camp.

These new centers “will prevent the effective identification of vulnerable people”, “limit asylum seekers’ access to services” and “amplify the harmful effect of confinement on the mental health of people”, criticized a around fifty NGOs, including Amnesty International.

“The word” closed “comes up often and it is worrying,” admits Mireille Girard, the representative in Greece of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) who will be present in Samos during the transfers to ensure that migrants are well informed of the situation.

“The UNHCR position is that the asylum seeker needs protection, he is not a criminal or someone who poses a risk to the community, he is a person who needs help. For us. , the camps must be open, the government has assured us that they will be, “she told AFP.

Athens continues to congratulate itself on the significant decongestion of the camps on the islands and the reduction in arrivals by almost 90% since 2019.

But NGOs explain this decline by the systematic and illegal refoulement of migrants to Turkey. The Greek conservative government has always denied it.

With AFP